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Archive for the ‘Bee-ology’ Category

What colors creatures see has long interested scientists, and aside from us, more is known about what colors bees see than any other living thing.  Like us, bees are trichromatic.  Whereas we base our color combinations on red, blue, and green, bees base all their colors on UV, blue , and green.  Just as color blind people do not see red or green, and therefore experience the world of color differently, bees also perceive the world in colors entirely different from ours.  Bees do not see red and have a hard time distinguishing it from surrounding green leaf backgrounds.  Bees that frequent red flowers are either perceive them in color they can see, or the red flower is not being lost against a green background.  Even though bees don’t see red, they can see other reddish wavelengths such as orange and yellow.

The light spectrum bees see is from 600 – 300 nm. The colors bees see are blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet, with research showing our purple followed by our violet then our blue as their favorites. Mixing ultraviolet wavelengths with the wavelengths of colors they can and can’t see, gives bees a world of color different from our own.   If deprived of UV light, bees lose interest in foraging, and remain in the hive until forced out by severe food shortages.

Bees not only see flowers in different colors than we do, bees also see ultra-violet light patterns, invisible to us, at the center that are a different color than the rest of the flower.   From a bee’s-eye-view, the UV colors and patterns in a flower’s petals dramatically announce the flower’s stash of nectar and pollen.  These UV patterns serve as a landing zone, guiding the bees to the nectar source.

we see 
bees see
add in UV
red black uv purple
orange yellow/green*
yellow yellow/green* uv purple
green green
blue blue uv violet
violet blue uv blue
purple blue
white blue green
black black

*even the experts don’t agree as to what colour the bee sees!

Below is a fantastic link of photographs of flowers taken with Ultraviolet filters showing the landing patterns and flouresence.
The color of these uv flowers is dependant on the filter used by the photographer, and is not the color perceived by the bee.
Here is a picture of Arnica angustifolia Vahl as a human might see it:
And here is a picture of the same flower as a bee might see it – with an ultraviolet “bullseye” pattern to attract the bee:

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CLICK HERE or on the photo below to sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this link to everyone you know!

Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But a global ban of one group of pesticides could save bees from extinction.

Four European countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are recovering. But chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep all killer pesticides on the market. A global outcry now for a ban in the US and EU, where debate is raging, could provoke a total ban and a ripple effect around the world.

Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for these dangerous chemicals to be outlawed in the US and EU until and unless they are proved to be safe.

CLICK HERE to Sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this to everyone.

More at: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/call-to-ban-pesticides-linked-to-bee-deaths-2190321.html

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I just love stories that show that the world of bees is unexplainable, beyond individual intelligence and that even to the most brainiest of scientists can’t explain how they do it!

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. Bees are effectively solving the ‘Travelling Salesman Problem’, and these are the first animals found to do this.


The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed. […]

Co-author and Queen Mary colleague, Dr. Mathieu Lihoreau adds: “There is a common perception that smaller brains constrain animals to be simple reflex machines. But our work with bees shows advanced cognitive capacities with very limited neuron numbers. There is an urgent need to understand the neuronal hardware underpinning animal intelligence, and relatively simple nervous systems such as those of insects make this mystery more tractable.

So long as scientists only think of bees as individual insects, they will continue to miss the point.  Same for the planet really.  So long as governments continue to see us as individuals, they will also miss the point.  Time for more research into swarm intelligence and the subtle energies that allow colonies to survive and prosper.

Story from: http://technoccult.net/archives/2010/10/27/bees-can-solve-the-travelling-salesman-problem/

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A great programme from the BBC on Heater Bees broadcast this evening.

Unfortunately, you can’t watch the whole programme any more, but there are some clips here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rqgh4#clips

And this amazing photograph:

 

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In the work that I do, I am often asked what is the difference between leaders and managers.  So here is an attempt to describe the difference:
Leaders lead people. In order to lead people they need vision of a possible future and a sense of purpose. And they need to convince others that this vision and purpose are something that are worth working towards. Leaders  have to master uncertainty and lead people when the future is uncertain and the outcomes are unclear. To that extent, leaders will need to fall back on their own values and beliefs and express (when questioned) what the future might look like.  They will often answer uncertainty with more uncertainty, but dress it up in a coat of confidence such that the followers believe in the body language and are less concerned about the ideas or words.
Managers manage work. The work might have other people doing the work or it might have machines doing the work. Enlightened managers should also be leaders. But when the people become machines without a purpose other than to turn up and do the work and get a wage – and when the managers become lazy and start bullying the workforce, then managers are on the rocky road to redundancy – working towards redundancy of the process they are managing and, ultimately, redundancy from the organisation they are working for.
Therefore, Leadership is normally described in a positive light – because it is easy to see when leaders are being effective and have enthusiastic followers. Quite simply, mis-leadership is not such an interesting idea, because the followers simply stop following and move on to follow something else!
However, we constantly struggle with the two poles of management – good management and mis-management – simply because our employment laws and the ways that companies create contracts often lock-in the bully-boy mentality to a process, system or business relationship that others will follow simply to earn a wage.
In beekeeping we have a term for a colony that is being well-managed (not just by the queen, but when the system is stable). It is when the colony is “queen-right”.  In other words, there is single laying queen in residence that gives off enough pheromones to keep the colony happy.  It is not simply that the queen is a good leader, but that the pheromones are strong and bind the colony. I often think human societies behave in the same way – except that our pheromones are words!
When the colony is not “queen-right”, there are no binding pheromones.  In such cases, the colony starts to become stressed.  If a queen does not appear from a queen cell in three or four weeks, it is likely that workers will start laying unfertilised eggs.  Although flying bees will continue to bring nectar and pollen into the hive, the hive will eventually die off because no new bees are being produced by the colony.  I have often found that a hive in this state also becomes aggressive – but not in every case.  So in this case there is no “leadership” in the sense that there are no binding pheromones from the queen – yet lots of day-to-day management of tasks that are instinctive behaviours by the individual bees.
Interested to know what others think about these ideas!

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In his book “Sacred Geometry – Philosophy and Practice”, Robert Lawlor has an interesting picture on the connection between sacred geometry and the honey bee.  Lawlor draws attention to the ubiquitous relationship between One and the Square Root of Two (or 1:1.41421356…) and shows this in the diagram below:


Sacred Geometry and the Honey Bee - Mysteries of the Melissae

Excerpt from page 31 “Sacred Geometry – Philosophy and Practice”

Next to it he writes a rather elegant piece on the root:

“The Root of a Plant, like the mathematical root, is causative, the former being embedded in the earth, the latter embedded in the square. The visible growth of a plant , its proliferation into specificity, depends upon the root for stability and nutrition. The Plant root nourishes because it is able to break down ( divide) the fixed, dense mineral constituents of the soil.”

“In the vital sense the geometric root is an archetypal expression of the assimilative , generating, transformative function which is root. Like the vegetal root, the root of 2 contains the power of nature which destroys in order to progress ( it severs the initial square) and it also contains the power which instantaneously transforms 1 into 2 ..”

Further on in the book, Lawlor states that:

“The Fibonacci Series perfectly delineates the breeding pattern of rabbits, a symbol of fecundity, and the ration of males to females in honey bee hives”.

The Fibonacci Series is a mathematically beautifully elegant number that I came across when I was about 13.  I was so excited when I discovered it, that I thought I had created one of the most brilliant mathematical break-throughs of the twentieth century – only to find that Fibonacci had beaten me to it (and prior to that Indian Mathematicians) many centuries before!   The golden number (as it is often called) is denoted by the Greek letter phi and approximately equal to 1.61818….

If Lawlor is right, it  would mean that there would be many more drones in my hives than I see every year… the male to female ratio (drone to worker ratio) is not anything like 1:1.6… – there are far fewer drones than that – and many of them are probably itinerants from other colonies!  The proportion also changes through the year – as the drones are pushed out of the hive in the Autumn by the worker bees and there are none in the hive over winter (unless it is a queenless hive).  This is probably because the drones eat three times more than the worker bees!

So, as elegant as some of the theories are in this book, I feel that sometimes the myth is created to make the magic!  However, I am sure you will agree that there is much evidence on the other posts on this site that there is still considerable magic in studying the lore of the honeybee!

The book contains amazing insights and illustrations on the theme of sacred geometry.  You can see more if you take a look at the link below:

Originally found at: http://www.milliande.com/Mysteries-of-the-Melissae-Sacred-Geometry-and-the-Honey-Bee.html

See also: https://beelore.com/2008/01/20/the-melissae-and-aphrodite-in-ancient-greece/

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Honeybees have been “voting” in single winner “elections” for 20-50 million years.  They’ve held far more elections than humans, for a lot longer, and to decide something that mattered to each bee voter a lot more than most election winners matter to most human voters: where should we locate our new nest?

Each spring, about half the inhabitants of each beehive leave with their queen to start a new hive –  in a swarm usually containing between 2000 and 20000 bees.  The most important decision they need to make is: where to build that new hive? They usually find about 20 different options within about 100 square kilometers, and about 90% of the time, the bee swarm succeeds in selecting (what appears to entomologists to be) the best one. Occasionally, however, they select a sub-optimal choice or even fail to reach a decision. The latter is very bad since there is only one queen – who cannot be divided in two!

Details: Lindauer in observing 19 swarms reported 2 that failed to reach a decision. In the first, the swarm split in two, each trying to get the queen to go to its choice; but after it became clear this attempt failed, the swarm rejoined and recommenced negotiations, which after two more days resulted in an agreement. In the second instance, the swarm had still failed to find an attractive housing option even after 14 days, at which point it ran out of stored food and inclement weather approached. It then, apparently as a fallback option, decided to construct the new nest in open air right then and there, contrary to the usual policy of nesting in natural hollows. Open air nesting usually leads to the death of the hive in the winter, but in this location the winters were mild enough to make survival probable.


So bees, while not perfect decision makers, are quite good. To provide a little perspective, consider the “plurality voting method” that is the most commonly used system in human single-winner elections.

Computer simulations  show that 1283 plurality-voters, given 10 choices, will succeed in choosing the best choice 32% of the time. While 32% is better than just making a random guess (10%), it is a far worse performance than bees.  If the simulated-humans instead employ “approval voting” (approving choices with value greater than midway between the best and worst available) then they get the best choice 54% of the time – better, but still far worse than bees. If the humans use 0-100 “range voting” (scoring the best choice 100, the worst 0, and the rest linearly interpolated) then it’s 79%. That is at least approaching bee-like decision-making quality.

As the internet allows us to do more sophisticated voting for many ranges of issues, surely there is still yet more we can learn from the bees to make better decisions for the planet!  I wonder how one can get these ideas over to politicians, though, who will often have self-interest higher on their agenda than good decision-making.

More at: http://rangevoting.org/ApisMellifera.html

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